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RSD says it's working to follow state code in proposed school closings

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 12 2012 03:56:56 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 12 2012 04:54:14 PM CDT

The Reading School District has fired back regarding a story 69 News first reported on Monday.

READING, Pa. -

The Reading School District has fired back regarding a story 69 News first reported on Monday.

The district plans to consolidate several schools in the midst of a $40 million budget crisis. So far, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, state code has not been met by the district.

"We're not trying to look for any kind of loophole in order to avoid doing what we need to do," said James Washington, a member of the Reading School Board.

According to state officials, requirements have not been met because a public hearing has not been held. On Tuesday, the school district said it is aware of the requirement and plans to consolidate the schools this upcoming school year.

The school district is planning to hold a public hearing to discuss the impact of consolidating the city's four magnet schools and Thomas Ford Elementary, but an exact date has still not been decided, Washington said.

"So if we have those conversations between now and July, we will be satisfying what I understand PDE's contention is for having those public hearings," Washington said.

69 News sat down with the Department of Education in Harrisburg on Monday. According to the state code, the board cannot cast a final vote on the decision to close schools until three months after a hearing is held.

"They have to show us that they took action based on what the requirements of the law are," said Tim Eller, the press secretary for PDE.

Under that timeline, three months would bring us into the upcoming school year. The code reads the district would then have to prove the consolidations would advance the academic program for students.

"That's a conversation that we would have to have, and I would imagine there are emergency situations and circumstances for everything that exists in the school code that something is determined to be in the best interest of students," said Washington.

As of right now, Washington stated the district has not decided what to do with the buildings. The Department of Education said it can only give final approval for consolidations if all the state's requirements are met.